A picture is worth a thousand words. That’s only true if you know the story behind what you are seeing. A few days ago, while flying home from Mamit, an airstrip perched on a mountainside in the heart of Papua, I saw this young man reading his Bible. It’s not an incredibly remarkable picture in itself, but the story behind it is very different.
Just a few decades ago, this same man would have grown up living by a code of revenge killings and tribal war. A book would likely have looked like some sort of strange bundle of white leaves. He would never have learned to read, or even known what writing was. He would have likely died before turning forty years old, either murdered, or from disease.
Today, because of innumerable hours of labor by missionaries and translation helpers, he has grown up in a world completely changed from even one generation ago. Translators invented an alphabet for his people, and then developed a written system for their language to writing. Eventually, they were able to teach the people to read their own language. All of this was done with the ultimate goal of translating the Bible into this man’s language, a process that can take twenty or thirty years.
This massive effort was possible because of the faithful service that MAF has provided in Papua for over 50 years. Without the airplane, the translators couldn’t live in the villages. Without the teachers for the missionaries’ children, many families could not stay and work. Without financial supporters, the whole community of people working together here in Papua would not be able to continue to give of their time.
That man and his Bible are a miracle. It’s the miracle of thousands of people living selflessly every day—and that is the story behind the picture.